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American Fuel Economy Just Hit a Record, Thanks to EVs and Hybrids

The EPA’s numbers show the biggest improvements in almost a decade, despite America’s thirst for ever-larger trucks and SUVs.

Electric cars.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is out with its annual Automotive Trends Report for 2022 model-year vehicles, and the numbers are some of the best it’s seen. Average emissions are at a record low and fuel economy is at a record high — and according to preliminary 2023-model-year data, those trends will continue into the new year.

Overall, the EPA says average real-world CO2 emissions for new vehicles sold in 2022 dropped by 10 grams of carbon dioxide per mile for an average of 337 g/mile, the lowest the agency has recorded. On the other side, fuel economy averages are at 26 miles per gallon, an improvement of 0.6 MPG and another record high for new vehicles sold.

Of the five categories of vehicles tested, four are the most fuel efficient the agency has seen since its inception, with crossovers (what the EPA classifies as “car SUVs”) showing the biggest drop in emissions at 27 g/mile, followed by pickup trucks, sedans/wagons, minivans, and SUVs.

The not-so-good-news is the EPA also recorded its highest number of SUVs, pickups, and minivans/vans sold since 1975, accounting for a whopping 63% of new vehicles that rolled off dealer lots. And across the board, 2022 vehicles were also the heaviest and largest ever sold.

This is primarily due to two things: First, automaker safety is at an all-time high, swelling cars with better crumple zones, dozens of airbags, and scads of active safety systems. Second, Americans just like big vehicles with more power — what the EPA calls “market trends.” That likely won’t change with 2023’s numbers.

Thankfully, there will be more EVs and hybrids coming to market, which should help to offset some of the emissions. Electrics helped reduce average emissions by 22 g/mile in 2022 and increased overall fuel economy by 1.2%, and projections for the next report show an even bigger boost to 26.9 MPG in 2023.

Damon Lavrinc profile image

Damon Lavrinc

Damon Lavrinc is a freelance writer and industrial design student focused on the future of transportation. A former driving instructor and communications professional, Damon is the co-founder of the Autonocast and led transportation technology coverage at WIRED, Jalopnik, and other outlets.

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